Drones and the city

An overview on current regulations, experiences, and Nomoko's unique ability to scale data capture

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have become increasingly popular in recent years, both for recreational and commercial use. To supervise and keep control over the use of drones, authorizations are now required in many countries. In this article, we will take a look at the drone regulations ensuring safe operations in the European Union, Switzerland, and US, and how they impact Nomoko data capture procedures for the creation of 3D digital twins.

Drone regulations in the European Union

The European Union (EU) has implemented regulations for the operation of drones across all EU member states. They aim at harmonizing drone rules across the EU and improving safety and security for all drone operations.

Under the EU Drone Regulations, drones are classified into three categories based on the weight of the drone and the level of risk associated with the operation:

  • Open category: Low risk operation
  • Specific category: Medium risk operations
  • Certified category: High risk operations

Nomoko’s city data capture operations fall generally under the “Specific” category.

Drone operator launching a DJI Matrice 300

The starting point for Nomoko’s Digital Twin is data capture – shooting accurate footage of a city from above and sometimes at street level.

SORA (Specific Operations Risk Assessment) is a compulsory requirement for complex drone operations in Europe. To comply with safety objective, a 10-step process details where, when and how a company can perform drone operations without endangering people and objects in the air and on the ground, explaining the risks involved and the measures taken to mitigate them. The EU introduced this legislation in January 2021, to improve the way drones are operated, affecting not only the drone hardware but also the processes and protocols around how they are utilized.

Nomoko has been among the first companies being awarded a SORA permit in September 2021, which means that Nomoko has created a detailed and robust methodology for its approach to drone operations in Europe, often over busy, densely populated environments.

Drone regulations in Switzerland

In Switzerland, drone regulations are set by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) and as of January 1st, 2023, Switzerland has adopted the EU drone regulations, with an adaptation period until August 31st, 2023.

For commercial drone operations, the operator must be registered on the FOCA platform (UAS.gate) to obtain a UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) operator number permit. This permit requires the operator to have a certain level of expertise in drone operations and a sufficient level of insurance to cover any potential damages or accidents.

Drones must always be flown within the operator’s line of sight and cannot be flown higher than 120 meters above ground level, over crowds of people, and near airports, airfields, or helipads without prior permission. Those specific areas can be found on the federal online portal: map.geo.admin.

Drone regulations in the USA

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) sets the drone regulations in the USA. Pilots must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate by passing an FAA-approved aeronautical knowledge test, a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) background check, and they must follow the Part 107 guidelines in order to fly for business purposes.

When operating a drone, the maximum flight height allowed is 122 meters (about 400 ft), and the drone must always remain within the visual line of sight of the operator or a visual observer. If a drone operator needs to conduct a specific type of operation that falls outside the Part 107 regulations, like flying at night or Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) flights, they can apply for a Part 107 Waiver to gain permission to deviate from certain requirements. The FAA reviews each waiver application on a case-by-case basis and may grant a waiver if it determines that the operation can be conducted safely, with appropriate mitigations in place to reduce risks to people and other aircraft.

To streamline its operations, Nomoko works with a network of trustful pilots for projects on the US territory.

Recreating the world in 3D with drones

Drone operations are the first step in creating Digital Twins. Once the permits are set, the capturing operations take place, acquiring all the data necessary for the reconstruction of rich 3D models. Through a custom-built 3D modelling process, the 2D drone images are converted into high-resolution 3D Digital Twins at a rapid rate and in a scalable way. Entire cities can be captured in extreme detail and faster than ever before.

Digital twin of Zurich Bahnhofstrasase

From capturing images to the final delivery, creating Digital Twins and 3D models, such as the one we constructed for Zurich, is a complex and challenging process


Drone regulations are in place to ensure drones safe operations. The EU Drone Regulations have introduced harmonized rules across all EU member states, to which Switzerland also adheres, making it easier for drone operators to operate across borders. Nomoko as a pioneer in setting up rigorous capture operation procedures has set a trustful ground for the expansion of its operations worldwide.

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